Paul Thomas Moore: Mercy me! My (Christian) bucket list runneth over

"Works of Mercy" by Pierre Montailler, 1680. (Public Domain)

In My Father’s House / By Paul Thomas Moore

Around this time of the rolling year, New Year’s resolutions are everywhere. Sometimes these promises-to-oneself merge with long-term goals we have for our lives, as epitomized by the popular, if somewhat inelegant concept of the “bucket list” — as in things we hope to do before we kick it.

Climbing mountains such as Everest or Kilimanjaro is one frequent theme, and there’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with that goal. One could argue there’s a humble appreciation for God’s gift of nature built into such an ambition. If you think about it, though, if you climb to the top of the highest mountain, where are you? No matter what one’s earthly elevation, we are the same distance from Heaven.

My brother John suggested I write a column about a Christian bucket list. It could involve performing acts from the Corporal Works of Mercy (concerning the material and physical needs of others), or the Spiritual Works of Mercy. John related that at one time he was on trial for peaceful pro-life witness, and a friend pledged to bail him out, if need be, joking it would give him a chance to do a corporal act of mercy — ransom a captive. (The sentence was suspended.)

Unlike bucket list goals that involve remote mountain peaks or subsea coral reefs, hard-to-get Broadway show tickets or 5-star Michelin restaurant reservations, corporal and spiritual works of mercy don’t require a travel itinerary.

The old phrase “charity begins at home” can be corrupted — charity certainly shouldn’t begin and end at home — but as Mother Teresa said, “If we truly want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our own families.”


That thought was echoed by a video I saw recently, “The Door — The Power of Presence,” produced by Paradisus Dei and presented as part of its “That Man is You” program, which I’ve been attending at my local parish.

The video is about a Dad so caught up in making a living for his family that he doesn’t have the time or energy to support them in other ways. At one point in the video the father realizes he must change, and in a gentle rap cadence (I’m not generally a big rap fan, but if there were more like this, I think I would be) he testifies, “It’s a blessing that some get to travel the world as missionaries who roam, but just as important, if not more, we need missionaries at home.”

It made me wonder if our Dads were able to check off all the items on their bucket lists. My Dad wanted to be a pilot, but it didn’t happen for him. My wife’s Dad, former Catholic Post columnist Jerry Klein, hatched a plan around brimming mugs at the old Hofbrau restaurant to go traipsing through France in his late 80s. I’m not sure if he and former Peoria Symphony conductor Bill Wilsen had a plan to get in or out of the convertible they were looking to rent.

Time and circumstances overtook these dreams. Still, while our Dads (mine and my wife’s) may have had career and other bucket list aspirations left unfulfilled, between them — and with a little help from our Moms — they gave 13 kids buckets of life.


Bucket lists can begin at home and branch out from there. In this time of COVID precautions, visiting the sick may not be feasible, but it’s still safe to “reach out and touch someone” via the phone. Ditto for comforting the sorrowful. In family and community life, there are always opportunities to bear wrongs patiently, and forgive offenses willingly. Finally, in this post-holiday time, alms to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless are welcome.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Mt 5:7).

My bucket list runneth over.

Paul Thomas Moore

PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at

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